Former RSA Commissioner Janet LaBreck shared what gives her the greatest hope for people with disabilities, her role models growing up (Helen Keller was one), and thoughts on being a role model herself (she embraces it).
In this recent interview with Alliance Enterprises she also previewed her upcoming keynote presentation at the getAwareLive! conference this summer.
What gives you the greatest hope when you think about the future of people in this country who have disabilities? How do we continue to progress?
I am most hopeful about the progress that technology has made towards leveling the playing field for individuals with disabilities. The modernization of legislation and policies intended to break down barriers and promote partnerships, cross collaboration between individuals with disabilities, agencies/organizations, stakeholders and business can also lead to innovative strategies for providing the opportunity and tools to acquire skills that lead to economic self-sufficiency. Therefore, it is critical that we remain focused and innovative about preparing disabled youth and adults for the future.
Can you share some of your memorable experiences as the RSA Commissioner?
I will always be grateful to the many counselors, Vocational Rehabilitation professionals and key stakeholders for their commitment and dedication to the disability community. Traveling across the country, I had the opportunity to experience numerous examples of the passion, expertise and energy invested in partnerships with individuals with disabilities, their families and the business community that resulted in changing lives.
Who were your heroes growing up?
As a young person growing up with a disability, I always admired Helen Keller for her tenacity and relentless spirit to break down social isolation, stigmas and barriers through her legislative and advocacy efforts to educate society about the abilities of individuals with disabilities. She also developed a social justice platform, which eventually led to changes in education, job training and employment laws for the disability community. I also looked to former teachers as positive role models because they encouraged me to ask for help when needed, strive for success in spite of any challenges encountered in life and to be a positive role model for others.
You lost your vision at age 10, and have had a highly successful career. Do you consider yourself a role model for people who are blind?
I am very grateful that I have had individuals who have supported me when I needed encouragement and guidance throughout various stages of my life. Living with a disability has taught me to remain focused on what is important in life, not to fear the unknown and to challenge limitations or barriers that pose a threat to accomplishing my goals. It has always been important to me to value and respect the individuals whom I have worked with as consumers or as colleagues. I continue to provide encouragement and guidance with the hope that individuals living with a disability will benefit from knowing that they can accomplish their goals given the support and opportunity to succeed.
We’re excited to have you speak at our event. What will be your main message to the audience?
I look forward to sharing my perspectives on identifying strategies, goals and objectives that promote the opportunity to maximize performance, efficiency and partnerships. These are critical components that lead to better outcomes, innovation and organizational success.